In the U.S.A, roughly 1 in 10 pregnancies result in premature birth, which is the leading cause of death amongst newborns. Although it’s not a rare occurrence, doctors are still puzzled as to why it happens and what the risk factors are. The stats might not be as shocking in SA as they are in the States, but nevertheless, it should be something all pregnant women have basic knowledge about.
In this post, we’ll be taking a quick look at what premature birth is and who might be at risk.
What is premature birth?
When a baby is premature, it means that he or she is born between weeks 20 and 37 of pregnancy. Before 37 weeks old, babies are technically not ready to leave the womb, which is why preemies face significant physical and developmental challenges.
Who is at risk of premature birth?
If you’ve delivered a preemie baby in the past, you are definitely at risk of premature delivery again. Other common risk factors include problems with the cervix or placenta, short intervals between pregnancies, infection, high blood pressure and diabetes. You are also at risk if you conceived via in-vitro fertilisation, are carrying multiples, follow a poor diet or have drug or alcohol problems.
Can premature birth be prevented?
The best prevention measures you can take to help ward off premature birth is leading a healthy lifestyle throughout your pregnancy. It’s also essential to learn more about pregnancy and the development of your unborn baby so that you can take precautionary measures when and wherever possible.
1. Familiarise yourself with the symptoms of premature labour
When you go into premature labour, it means that your body is preparing to deliver your baby before your due date. Warning signs and symptoms include:
- Cramping in the lower abdomen
- A dull backache
- Frequent contractions that come in 10-minutes-or-less intervals
- Increased pelvic pressure
- Vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking from the vagina
2. Do a blood test in order to predict your risks of premature delivery
There is a prenatal test available that can help determine a woman’s individual risk of going into premature labour. The blood tests are called PreTRM, and it’s something that you can do during weeks 19 or 20 of pregnancy. PreTR< can measure proteins in the blood that correlate with hormones that are released when premature birth occurs. Keep in mind that the PreTRM blood test can only be done if you’re carrying one baby (not twins) and don’t have any other symptoms of premature delivery.